Six Facing Charges Following Sexual Exploitation Investigation
This past week, the Seattle Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) served more than a dozen warrants in and around Seattle in the culmination of a three-and-a-half-year investigation into a broad network of massage parlors and spas, which were sexually exploiting numerous victims from the U.S. and foreign countries.
The investigation originated from complaints by citizens of potential sex trafficking at several massage parlors in the city.
The Seattle Police Department’s Vice/High-Risk Victims Section began investigating the businesses and determined that there was a criminal enterprise, linking several individuals and the massage parlor locations.
Investigators, working in partnership with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, identified multiple suspects working jointly to exploit female victims, requiring them to engage in sex acts for the profit of the businesses.
The victims were fraudulently lured to Seattle from China with the promise of making large sums of money to support themselves and their families. They were targeted with advertisements for what appeared to be legal employment and other opportunities. In fact, the operators of these massage parlors profited greatly from the criminal enterprise operation.
Investigators arrested six suspects for promoting prostitution and money laundering, and recovered cash and firearms as part of the operation. Law enforcement officials also recovered 26 women—all between the ages of 20 and 60—who were being exploited by the suspects. Many of these victims were forced to live in austere conditions, and were prostituted upwards of 20 hours a day under the direction of those involved in the criminal enterprise. The victims’ movements were also restricted or monitored by suspects, who exploited the women for profit.
The victims were increasingly forced to work extreme hours in unhealthy conditions engaging in sexual acts regardless of the medical, physical, and emotional risks. The victims were frequently put in situations where they were vulnerable to physical attacks with no means of escape or defense.
We are pleased to report that the victims have been united with local area service providers who are assisting them by evaluating their needs, including medical attention, food, living arrangements, and transportation to allow them to escape the conditions that they were in while being exploited.
The Seattle Police Department is grateful to the FBI, DHS, and King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, as well as the victim assistance organizations that made their services available in support of the victims.